Group wants student input in endowment

Michelle Ma

What would a Northwestern student do with half a million dollars?

As students walked past The Rock on Friday, they received a $500,000 “check” created to bring attention to the need for a committee where students and faculty have a voice in NU’s financial decisions.

Student volunteers, primarily from the group Students for Economic Justice, distributed more than 1,000 mock checks with the amount on each “check” roughly equal to NU’s $4 billion endowment divided by the number of undergraduates. This amount symbolically represented each student’s share in the endowment.

“People don’t understand what happens financially in the university,” said Kayleigh Gamble, a Weinberg freshman and member of SEJ. “It’s to get people thinking ‘I should have a role in this.'”

CHECKS FOR CHANGE

The demonstration at The Rock was a step in the group’s attempt to emulate peer institutions with Socially Conscious Finances committees that include students. At universities such as Harvard and Columbia, students and faculty participate with administration to make recommendations to university Board of Trustees on how endowment money is invested.

Weinberg junior Jeffrey Paller grabbed a check and talked with students who were distributing them.

“We definitely should know where our money’s going,” said Paller, who heard about the endowment committees with student involvement at other universities.

The memo line on the mock checks read “Positive Social Impact?” It is a message SEJ members hope will get students to question the current system of managing the endowment that excludes student participation.

Representatives from SEJ called for a committee that allows students to make suggestions on how to invest the endowments and recommendations on which companies to support when there are concerns raised by investors.

“We want to stress things we can do that have a positive impact,” said Kyle Schafer, a McCormick sophomore and member of SEJ. “This isn’t a radical, crazy idea. This is something that has been done, that can be done in a very feasible way.”

At The Rock students also asked passersby to sign a letter supporting a committee’s creation addressed to Eugene Sunshine, senior vice president for business and finance. Claire Arctander, a Weinberg senior who signed the letter, said after four years at NU, she would like to see some changes.